DONNA LYNN BENAMOZ MEMORIAL FUND
Donna and Ezra, her therapy dog in training now donated to P4L as an ambassador.
Donna came in to my life ten years ago when she was volunteering at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit organization where I worked as an Occupational Therapist. Donna assisted in therapy sessions with young disabled children, either by leading the pony or walking beside the pony. Donna and I developed a friendship, and that is how she learned about the nonprofit organization I was starting- Paws 4 Liberty (P4L). Donna had been a social worker for the Veteran’s Administration in New York, and she was excited about the opportunity to help veterans again. She joined our board of directors, and her enthusiasm for helping veterans was contagious. From there she just took off!
As Paws 4 Liberty was growing, so was the business she co-owned with her husband, Pharmaceutical Development Services (PDS). At one of PDS’s first conferences in Orlando Donna came up with the fun idea to “sell Walmart hoodie sweatshirts” (she ran to the store to get after seeing how cold everyone was) to the freezing clients attending the 3 day conference and donate the proceeds to P4L. People come to Florida in February from all over the country and think it will be warm so they had no sweaters in their suitcases! Dan likes keeping the conference rooms nice and cool to keep everyone going strong all day!
Under Donna’s creativity, her original selling of hoodies grew into new ways to help bring in funds to serve even more veterans. Since that first conference, P4L has attended every conference since. Over the years, PDS and P4L have grown together and become like family. Once a year, in February, we spend five days together sharing our missions, goals, dreams, and aspirations. Joy and laughter are shared as we learn together from the wonderful mentors, speakers, and business owners at the PDS conference.
The past two years Donna was not well enough to attend the PDS conference, leaving a huge void. Though she was my buddy on the robo-computer 2 years ago, cruising through the crowds with me, it wasn’t the same without her being physically there. We will forever miss Donna, even though she remains with us in our spirits and in our hearts. Future Februarys may bring us a time to come together to remember this loving, wonderful, strong, courageous, generous, and gracious woman.
Thank you for your donations to the Donna Lynn Benamoz Memorial Fund. Donna would be so pleased to know that people are helping sustain her legacy of service by helping our returning soldiers cope with the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress by being matched with highly trained service dogs.
- Heidi Spirazza
Founder and Executive Director